Jimmy Carter to make private visit to Israel

Former president to arrive after Lebanon vote; expected to meet Peres, not PM or senior ministers.

Carter 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Carter 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
US President Barack Obama may be bypassing Israel on his current trip him to Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but former president Jimmy Carter is scheduled to arrive here on a private visit on June 12. Carter will be coming after co-leading an international election observation delegation to observe Lebanon's June 7 elections. While Carter's name appears on a Foreign Ministry list of VIPs expected this month, ministry officials said he was not invited by Israel, and that putting him on the list was simply a matter of protocol. Carter has antagonized many here and throughout the Jewish world for his relentless criticism of Israel, which culminated in 2008 with the publishing of his book entitled, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Government officials said that while Carter was expected to meet President Shimon Peres, he was not expected to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. This would similar to what happened when Carter came here in 2008; Peres met him, but the rest of the ministers snubbed him, with the exception of Eli Yishai, who met with him to discuss the fate of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit. The refusal of top government officials to meet Carter, one official said, stemmed from Carter's tendency to "look with too much forgiveness upon the Palestinians, and to much self righteousness on Israel." A Peres spokesman said that the two men were "old friends," and that when the former president of the US asks to meet him, as he always does, Peres is more than willing to oblige. Following his last visit here in April 2008, a letter written by Schalit to his parents was transferred to them two months later by Hamas via the Carter Center in Atlanta. That letter was the third Schalit had sent to his parents since his abduction. Hamas released the letter as part of a promise it gave the former president after a meeting with him. A spokesman for Schalit's family contacted on Wednesday said they did not know that Carter was scheduled to visit, and that no meetings with him had been scheduled. The family did meet Wednesday with Hagai Hadas, appointed by Netanyahu Sunday as his envoy on the Schalit case, as well as with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. It was the Schalit family's first meeting with Hadas since his appointment. No details of either meeting were provided.